Here’s a fascinating story from Jai Daniels-Freestone about her own home education journey and as a home educator now. She’s allowed me to copy it across from her Facebook page called The Freedom Journey where she writes about home education. Thanks Jai…it would be lovely to hear some others.
My Personal Journey to Home Education.
My total amount of time spent in school, apart from College and University, is a span of roughly eight months. My first school, a small infant school on Portland, is remembered fondly. I first went at age four and a half and I do remember jumping up and down on a piece of paper with an ‘e’ on it in frustration that I didn’t understand what it was. This piece of paper went up in the air, was stamped on and even had a chair put on it, so offended was I at this letter that I didn’t understand. After weeks of asking my Mum to teach me how to read, she decided to do just that, at home. So began my Home Education.
I went back to school aged seven. I had the best teacher who really cared about all of her students and yes, I was the child who took her teacher apples, that was how much I loved her. As someone who was, still is, rather chatty, when my work was finished ahead of everyone else, I got to go into the library corner and read, my favourite pass time! On other occasions my amazing teacher would put up a sequence of letters on the blackboard and challenge me to make as many words as possible! Fond memories indeed! When we moved from Portland to Weymouth, I was enrolled in another school where the teacher wasn’t so great. She did not enjoy the chatter of children, objected to any involvement from parents and even locked me in the stationary cupboard one day out of sheer frustration. As a confident child, I slipped off to see the Headmaster and told him about my teacher’s ability to shout and bully, neglecting to inform him of the stationary cupboard incident. My Mum’s final straw came when my answer to the question, “So what have you been doing in school”, was, “Well, we’ve mostly been colouring in a Green Dragon all week!”
So began my real Home Education, a decision that I think was for the best. Aged eight I began to read Shakespeare and I love the bard still. At age nine I went to Stratford to see my first Shakespeare performance, Hamlet and a love of all things theatrical was born. By the age of fourteen, I was writing a dissertation upon the bard and my favourite play. I remember the freedom of being able to concentrate my efforts upon a single subject for days if necessary, whether this was English, or Geography or the Classics. Much of the information that I remember to this day was learned at home. For instance, when I was eleven I wanted to learn how to type on a type writer. Mum and I found one in a charity shop along with a book that taught the art of typing and that was that. For the next fortnight all I did was type and by the end of this time, I could touch type to a faster and more accurate level than my Mother, who went to Secretarial College.
At fifteen years of age I went to Sixth Form College to do my GCSE’s as this was the only affordable way for me to study my exams. I was warned before starting by the Vice Principal of the College that I would have to ‘dumb down’ my abilities to do my GCSE’s. This was a painful process as my classmates were mainly those who had failed their exams at school and were re-taking them. I was also the youngest person in many of my classes which also didn’t help. I did survive the experience, gained five GCSE’s and went on to complete three A Level’s and go on to get a 2:1 with honours at University in Media Performance. Along the way I also collected a HND in Performing Arts.
When it came to having children of my own I didn’t want to Home Educate. At the time of the birth of my eldest son, I was teaching Art and Drama at Malvern Hills College and hoping to gain my PGCE and teach Drama at Colleges and University. This didn’t work out and although by the time my youngest son was born I was still teaching Drama classes, they were a solo effort and my College course was cut due to budgetary restraints! When my eldest son was three and half years of age, he wanted to go to school and although I did not have a yearning to Home Educate, I did have reservations about the EYFS, or ‘nappy curriculum’ as some have called it. I guess being Home Educated meant that my children were brought up slightly differently to most. My son was always listened to, stimulated and imaginative. Vivacious and chatty, always coming up with some new game or imaginary world he was a delight, never bored and always reasonable. I knew from my childhood experiences what sort of child he was and what potential he had having met many Home Educated children that had his qualities. They have a quiet confidence in their own abilities and a logical pattern of thinking that is beyond their years and stands them in good stead for coping with life. I thought that these qualities were set, that they would be appreciated at school and that he would quickly fit and enjoy the experience.
That was the naivety, I guess, of not having experienced the system during my youth. My son was bullied, limited and became thoroughly lost within the system. He became a shadow of his former self, no longer offering opinions, screaming when anything didn’t go his way. He stopped eating and stopped trusting us. I have later come to learn that this was due to the fact that no one listened when he told them about the bullying. I could have stayed and fought the system, tried to make the changes that were needed to help my son. I did try, but my letters were ignored and my meeting with senior staff fruitless. So I did what my mother had done all those years ago and decided to teach him, and therefore his brother, at home.
So here we are, a year and a half later, still battling the demons of the school experience, still trying to re-establish trust, still nurturing the imagination and creativity. I am beginning to see glimpses of the little boy I knew in the young man before me. He still has a fear of reading, a hang-up from a bad teacher at school, and a fear of writing which is being slowly conquered. He is remembering how to play and how to cope when things go wrong. He is still never bored, always creating some new game or imaginary world and still chatters on endlessly about his discoveries which include this week; not all bulls have horns, giant squid can have tentacles up to 10 feet in length and the first recorded God was the sky God An, from the area of Mesopotamia (Iraq). I am also on a steep learning curve, researching the ethos behind my belief in Home Education. I know that it works, I am living proof as are many other people around the country, but there has to be research to back this, ethics to be learned and a pathway created and followed. This wasn’t my first choice, but equally with my background it was possibly the inevitable choice. I want my children to blossom and grow, not be limited by class times and standing in line. I want them to learn to use their imaginations to their advantage, to be able to create solutions to problems where others do not see them. I want them to be able to survive and be confident in a world that will try its very best a times to strip this away. I want to able to give them the skills to conquer life that my mother gave me. I don’t ever want them to colour in a Green Dragon, but I do want them one day to read Shakespeare.